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Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch -- Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods
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Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch -- Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  5,433 ratings  ·  662 reviews
When Jennifer Reese lost her job, she was overcome by an impulse common among the recently unemployed: to economize by doing for herself what she had previously paid for. She had never before considered making her own peanut butter and pita bread, let alone curing her own prosciutto or raising turkeys. And though it sounded logical that "doing it yourself" would cost less, ...more
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Atria Books
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Angela 2019 and 2020 are extremely high right now and her pricing was around 2011

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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  5,433 ratings  ·  662 reviews

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Start your review of Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch -- Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cooking, eating
I can proclaim with absolute certainty this is the most enjoyable cookbook I will probably never use!

I have no plans to make my own cream cheese. I will not be fermenting my own kimchi, curing my own meat, or even rendering my own lard.


This is easily one of the most entertaining books I have read this year.

The author is FUNNY! Her saucy writing style, willingness to try anything, and dogged devotion to exhausting research reminds me of Mary Roach. I giggled when she bought a skin-on pork
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Did I find this book useful? Maybe. I now am encouraged to try baking bread, making yogurt, making hummus, and beef jerky, based on her book. I will report back after spending a Saturday doing these things and we will see.

But I got really tired of the tone after she started trying to raise livestock. So a minor digression.

There is an alarming persona at work in our culture. The tone in "Julie and Julia" and now in "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter" is one of women who decide that they are going
Dec 27, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I lost my job, I started cooking beans from dry but that's about as far as I got going down the road to discovering which recipes I could use my newly-found time to make. And when I heard about this book, I kept recommending it to people I knew who made preserves. Finally I realized I was recommending it because I was interested, so I sat down and read it. Just when I was thinking we might have to give up the dog in favor of chickens and goats, Reese writes, "It seems a tragic waste to shap ...more
Mar 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I "read" this book as much as you can read what is essentially a cook book with a lot of fascinating and hilarious introductions and clarification.

Finding herself without a job, Reese decided to try making a whole lot of stuff that we typically buy at the grocery store: bread and butter, as the title suggests, along with a whole slew of other items like cheese, corn dogs, cured meats, salad dressing, jams, etc. Based on the cost, taste, and work involved, this book contains her recommendations o
Mar 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: cooking
This book is a mixed bag. For the positive, the story-telling is humorous and easy to follow, and the format is well-done (what is the cost of making it versus buying it, what is the hassle, and what is the quality difference). For the negative, when I want to make something from home, it is because I want to make something artisan, not because I want a homemade pop-tart. This complaint is more reflective of me and my tastes than the recipies of the author, but if you would rather make a pain ch ...more
Dana Stabenow
Jan 23, 2013 rated it liked it
A few caveats before we get started, Reese writes in the introduction. First, although, like most people, I think about money, I've always been able to clothe my children and pay the mortgage and if I couldn't whether I bought or made creme fraiche--or bread, to use a less absurd example--would make no difference. It is frivolous and deluded to think it would. I just wanted to address and answer some middle-class home economics questions that nagged my Michael Pollan-reading, price-checking, ove ...more
Dec 16, 2012 rated it did not like it
I really hated this book. I really really hated the author. The main reason I wanted to read this to begin with was because Jennifer Reese lost her job and went on a quest to find the cheapest way to eat. HAHA. What the dust jacket fails to mention is even without Jennifer's income, her family still has enough money to throw around THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS on impulse buys. Plus, more than half of the recipes in this book go like this:
Make it or buy it: MAKE IT
Cost comparison: Homemade: $5.68. Store
Oct 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
My take: Jennifer Reese is a girl after my own heart. I had a similar experience only I didn't write a book about it and I forgot to get the chickens. Mostly because I have an aversion to eating animals I grow, even if it is only eggs. Don't even get me started on growing up on a farm and eating the cows that wandered through the field. Vegetarianism is so under-rated.

So Reese experiments with what can be made at home and what can not. It is hilarious and right on. I agree with her on so many le
Book Him Danno
This book is fantastic and everyone who enjoys cooking needs to get their hands on this book. What is best made homemade and what is best bought at the store? Well she sums it up in easy to understand writing adding a bit of humor along the way. Currently I have my homemade yogurt draining on the counter. How fun is that? Who knew I could make yogurt and Greek style to boot.

I will be purchasing a copy or two of this book for family members who love to cook. Homemade is so much better tasting and
Aug 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: food
Intriguing premise, sharp-witted writing. Haven't tried any of the recipes yet. One thing I didn't like is how California-centric the book is. The nearest See's Candies is hundreds of miles from me, plus I can't grow lemons in my backyard, so I really don't want to hear about it, Jennifer.

UPDATE: I thought my homemade hot chocolate mix was good, but this one puts mine to shame.
Nikki Coffelt
Jul 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
A rigorously honest food manifesto, the author gives a "make or buy" recommendation for each type of food she experimented with (comparing "from scratch" versions with common products purchased at the supermarket) after losing her job. She bases these recommendations on the obvious differences in taste as well as level of "hassle" (ranging from "a 4-year-old could do it" to "you will want to bludgeon yourself with your rolling pin about halfway through this project" :) and cost comparisons, righ ...more
AdultNonFiction Teton County Library
TCL Call#: 641.3 Reese J

Madeleine - 3 stars
This was a great book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Why 3 stars?
She seems to forget labor in her economic calculations. While each recipe has clear cost comparisons they do not include time needed to make the item. While it might be cheaper to make my own cheese it would be good to know it takes hours - weeks - months. I do not consider my labor to be free. Even if I love cooking it should be considered a factor.
Plus, she obviously lives in California w
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I kind of love to read cookbooks anyways, but this one was particularly enjoyable. I enjoy the mental challenge of wondering how to make things from scratch, though I'll never attempt anything to the level this author did. She rates each recipe by cost and hassle, and I value the hassle she went through to create this book! More importantly, her writing is hilarious and I enjoyed every bit.

Recommended highly to Renae Morehead, who, if she tries a few recipes, I'd like to do it alongside her.
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Full of methods and recipes and suggestions for making your kitchen more economical and efficient without sacrificing too much of your valuable time (or at least providing you with the knowledge to decide if the time investment is worth it) and without feeling like you are cutting off your right arm in the process.
Dec 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, cookbooks
I appreciate her straightforwardness and I liked the concept of "is it worth it to make this?" As someone who's made her own brown sugar for years, I often wonder how much I can actually make (and make better than the commercial versions). Reese's sense of humor adds delightful touches here and there to the headnotes for recipes. Part cooking theory, part recipe collection, this is a really interesting read.

Also, as noted by my read dates, it's very easy to tear through reading this.
Tony Noland
Jan 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a fun, very readable book that will certainly be of interest for two distinct classes of people who typically have ZERO overlap: 1) foodies who make everything from scratch; 2) "fast foodies" who make everything from a box.

Generations ago, food was prepared in the kitchen, beginning with raw ingredients, often grown or raised by the family. Vegetables, fruits, grains, livestock, eggs, etc. were turned into food through the skillful expenditure of lots of time. In contrast, the processed
Jamie Dacyczyn
May 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
5 stars for the humorous anecdotes, 3 stars for the recipes, and 2 stars for the overall mission success.

I didn't read this book cover-to-cover, so this is based on the parts I read and skimmed. I bounced around a lot. I loved the author's style of humorous writing. Some of the anecdotes and visual descriptions were pretty hilarious.

I tried a couple of the recipes in this book. The chocolate chip pumpkin muffins were delicious. The "Everyday Bread" was pretty lackluster, in my opinion. I'd proba
Feb 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I think it can be said that I've "read" this at this point; I skipped around a lot, but I think I've gotten to all the parts now. I found her tone and style fun, even (especially?) when she was doing obvious-fail things, and I relate to her wistfulness over certain areas of domesticity (including obsessing over recipes as a child, though she was far more effective in actually creating food from the recipes!). I'm not sure the make vs. buy aspect works the same for people in other regions of the ...more
May 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
It's just OK. She doesn't do things very frugally and then concludes everything is too expensive (for example, who, when trying to determine if it's cost effective to have backyard eggs for a family of 4, would get 27 chickens?). She hates gardening and canning, so there isn't much on that. She has goats, but the book is published before either gives birth (and so before either has milk). Her strength -kind of- is to compare the cost of making something with store bought staples versus buying a ...more
Apr 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book came highly recommended, but when I saw her price comparisons and how much hassle she said most of the recipes were, I don't know why you'd make half of those things to save 50 cents, if any money at all. Plus, since she did her shopping at Safeway and Whole Foods, which are two of the most notoriously expensive grocery stores known to man, she deserves a kick in the pants for paying $5 for a cake mix or $3.66 for chocolate pudding that you can buy for 49 cents, plus 30 more cents in m ...more
Sep 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! The author's escapades with her various projects are hilarious. It was interesting to read how some things are really made and I am glad that some things are ready and waiting for me in the store! ...more
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mostly self aware about the limitations of home cooking, with some excellent recipes I can’t wait to try.
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It’s seldom that I rate a cookbook five stars, but Make the Bread, Buy the Butter is so much more than a cookbook. Cover blurb says: “When Jennifer Reese lost her job, she was overcome by an impulse common among the recently unemployed: to economize by doing for herself what she had previously paid for. . . . So Reese began a series of kitchen-related experiments, taking into account the competing demands of everyday contemporary American family life . . . . Although you should make your hot dog ...more
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I had heard about this book on public radio years ago and then was never able to find it until recently. The premise appeals *directly* to my heart/soul: taking taste, effort, time, and money into account what food items are worth making yourself and what is worth purchasing? The book itself was largely enjoyable. Reese and I disagree about the difficulty/hassle level of some things (e.g. fried chicken isn't that hard? Although technically I usually assist Will when he makes it...), but overall ...more
Dec 16, 2020 rated it liked it
I assumed this was a memoir a la Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. It's not. It's a cookbook.

That being said, the blog-like posts in between recipes were pretty amusing. Though I didn't agree with a lot of what Reese claims you should buy vs. make and vice versa (buy your rice pudding but make your own pop-tarts? I mean...No. Rice pudding is easy, you should make your own. It's not that big a deal and it tastes way better than the store). 2.5 stars.
Maybe 3.5 really? The anecdotes are mostly funny but the advice is hit or miss to me, given some of the large hassles for small savings (and I do make my own bread and bake my own cakes most of the time). At least the author does lay it out right up front that this is not a book to help you pinch pennies or if you're on a strict food budget, but is for middle class suburban women who want to avoid a lot of processed food. ...more
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a book club pick, although we haven't actually met for book club since COVID descended. Nevertheless I'm glad it finally found its way to the top of my library queue and I'm glad I dipped in and out of it.

The book is partly memoir with interesting personal stories of how and why the author home-makes some items and store-buys others. The recipes and the stories are a lot of fun. I especially love (and have tried several times) her margaritas-with-fresh-limes recipe!
Mckenna Clarke
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’m so happy a book like this exists. Though I will never ever make homemade mayonnaise, homemade hotdogs, or homemade prosciutto, I’m glad that the author did and that she wrote this laugh-out-loud funny book about how it went. Because of this book, I’m going to try making homemade yogurt and granola. I didn’t realize how easy it could be!
Jan 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I definitely marked some recipes to try... namely homemade bagels, pb and yogurt. Fun to read as I’ve had chickens and like the idea of goats- her frank and honest assessments had me chuckling and second guessing more animals.
Brett Larter
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If Kaitlin comes home one day and I’m either making fresh biscuits by hand or feeding a baby goat out of a bottle this book will be to blame.
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Jennifer Reese has been a professional journalist all of her adult life, working mostly for national magazines, and has been an avid, adventurous home cook for even longer, which she blogs about at the Tipsy Baker ( as well as for online publications like Slate. Reese also teaches cooking classes in Marin County, California, where she lives with her family.

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  Jordan Morris is a comedy writer and podcaster whose credits include @Midnight, Unikitty! and Earth to Ned.  The sci-fi comedy Bubble is his...
46 likes · 11 comments
“Big food companies flatter us by telling us how busy we are and they simultaneously convince us that we are helpless. I am moderately busy, but not all that helpless. Neither are you.” 3 likes
“With backyard eggs, you can serve homemade eggnog at a holiday party with almost complete confidence that you won't make anyone sick--from Salmonella, anyway. Because drink enough homemade eggnog, and the race is on between heart failure and liver disease, unless a stroke fells you first. But life is short. Especially if you drink eggnog.” 3 likes
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